60s Popeye: Butler Up which … is a pun on ‘Batter Up’? Is that the joke?


We’re back in Paramount Cartoon Studios territory. Once more Seymour Kneitel is the director of record. The story’s credited to I Klein. From 1961 here’s Butler Up.

I’ve said what I expect when it’s a Paramount cartoon here. It’ll be competent, everything will make sense, everything will happen in first gear. That impression holds up again. The premise is that Olive Oyl needs a butler so she can impress an old classmate. That classmate? Brutus, who comes in the huge fur coat and straw hat that they assigned you for Old College Chum Days back then. Brutus, in this version of the Popeye-Brutus-Olive Oyl cycle, doesn’t know Popeye, but takes an instant and mutual dislike to him. And then the cartoon’s a bunch of Brutus fighting off Popeye, Popeye fighting back without breaking character, and oh yeah, Brutus moving toward the bit where he grabs Olive Oyl.

In considering his Jeeves role Popeye reads The Art of Butlering. It’s got a couple of basic rules. The setup makes me expect this is going to be a big part of the cartoon. Like, Popeye’s going to keep pulling back before he breaks a rule. It never does, though, at least not explicitly. When Popeye’s had all he can stands and can’t stands no more, there’s a callback Popeye recites the four directives and punches Brutus into the butler outfit. It still feels like Klein figured this would be the structure for the short and then didn’t take it out when other stuff happened.

Popeye as butler serving a plate with no fewer than fourteen sandwiches on it to Olive Oyl and Brutus. Olive Oyl's delighted to see him. Brutus is annoyed with the introduction
To me, fourteen seems like too many peanut butter sandwiches for one lunch with an old college chum. How many do you make when you have Brutus over?

There’s some fun business here, mostly in the asides. I’m curious where Olive Oyl got her enormously long dinner table, “not built for togetherness”, from and how she fit it into her house. Also why she set that when she’s not actually incredibly wealthy and, at least that far in, doesn’t have reason to stay away from Brutus. There’s also a bit where Popeye’s washing dishes in the middle of Brutus’s visit. That couldn’t wait? Or was that just the most plausible way to look like a legitimate butler?

It’s all a very Paramount-made cartoon, though. Viable premise, sensible story, really all made as okay as you could hope.

That long black dress with bracelets is a good look for Olive Oyl, though.

Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

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